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Archive for the ‘Birds and Bees’ Category

Pickled Grapes

In Birds and Bees, From the Garden, Fruit, Low Fat, on the side, Pickles, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on June 10, 2014 at 8:16 pm

grapes BW

Hot, hot. It’s a dry sauna in here! You could actually fry an egg on the sidewalk. And yet some things, native plants and creatures, thrive in this heat. At the moment, I am functioning with hardly any house-help. Kumari is away (for more than a month now) to her village in Bihar; Babloo, the presswala (for those who may not know, the chap who wields the “press” or iron, to iron our clothes!), also from Bihar, went away for a few weeks to make the most of his children’s summer vacations (he got back this morning!). He was also filling in for Chandu, who comes weekday mornings to wipe down the cars. So, I have had my hands more than full. The gardener, though in town, was a bit down in spirits, and there I was, watering the plants every other scorching evening. Yes, it doesn’t cool down even in the evenings. It become less hot, but never cool, till the monsoons arrive. No wonder we make so much song and dance about the Monsoon Season; yes, it is its own season – Saavan – in these parts, and much celebrated in Indian literature, paintings, and music.

On that first evening when I picked up the hose, I also decided to turn the pots to get even light on the less exposed sides. And, there was this tiny nest in the Ficus in the corner! The mystery of the chirpy sunbirds tailorbirds every morning explained! I rotated the plant back, so that the nest continued to stay hidden. A few days later, I became the anxious “carer” not having spotted the parents birds all afternoon and believing the nest to have been abandoned. I took a peek, and there they were, four tiny hatchlings in the nest! Google came to the rescue as always and I researched on how many hours hatchlings can survive without parent attention. I learned, with a heavy heart, that it is best to leave them alone and not care for them even if they have been abandoned. Ah, but come evening, there she was, the mother tailorbird! All was well after all. I resolved to take no more peeks lest I scare the parents to abandon their babies.

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Blooming Bright

In Birds and Bees, Edible Flowers, From the Garden on June 6, 2008 at 12:22 pm


Modern Western medicine has changed our lives with its clinical approach to diagnosis and treatment of disease. Along the way it became the mainstream approach with older systems getting the tag of alternative medicine. Of course, there are reasons to encourage and protect this mindset.

Practitioners of Western medicine, while finally admitting to the efficacy of meditation and yoga in keeping ailments such as hypertension (and many others) in check, find it difficult to explain how with their empirical scientific methods. Yoga, or homoeopathy also have no negative side-effects. Unlike much of modern medicine. (And you must check out this definition for homoeopathy! Seriously!)

Naturally, the winners of the no-side-effects approach are patients – not drug companies, not insurance companies. Patients find it hard to finance such ‘alternative’ treatments in the current arrangement between medical practice-drug companies-insurance agencies.

nasturtium yellowBri, a fellow food blogger, would like to do just that – explore other “alternative treatments” to fight breast cancer. She has been looking at various options in addition to chemotherapy. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. She is going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her.

Jugalbandi, with the June edition of Click, has organised a fundraiser to help Bri finance one year of such treatment that is not covered by her insurance. The theme for the month is Yellow, a colour that has come to be associated with the fight for cancer.

The deadline for participating in Click is June 30, while the fundraiser will continue till July 15, 2008. Details on how to participate and contribute here.

The beautiful flower at the top is Calendula, a popular annual in our winter gardens here. Of course, it is edible! You can use the petals in soups, scrambled egg, or make your own healing balm! And it is my entry for this special edition of Click!

Update, June 16: Flowers, even edible ones, were inadmissible!ย  The Khandvi picture at the bottom is the Click entry!

fruit sellers
Some more yellow for you.


(You want to know how to make this delicious nutritious almost-fat-free snack? Here’s the recipe! ๐Ÿ˜€ )

A Strange Gourd…

In Birds and Bees, From the Garden, Vegetables on July 26, 2007 at 12:36 pm


I have another volunteer in my little patch of green – this time it is a strange little gourd. One time I had Malabar spinach with its rose tinted berries and leaves show up in a corner. No amount of uprooting could remove it – then I discovered I could use it in a Bengali paanch-phoran stir fry in a medley of other vegetables (beans, pumpkin, potatoes…) – yummy.


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Lentil Burgers and Flowers Wild

In Birds and Bees, Low Fat, Tea Party on June 2, 2007 at 10:59 pm

Lentil burger

Itโ€™s no secret that I love potatoes. Who doesnโ€™t? And they make a swell burger too. But the veggie burgers my sister used to (have to) eat in the Union cafetaria were not made from potatoes alone. They had many grains and other indescribable things in it. I canโ€™t describe them because I never ate those โ€“ there were perfectly good real burgers for me.

But in a family that is 50% vegetarian, real burgers pose a problem. Though the potato based vegetarian burgers I make are a perfectly tasty option that we all love, I was looking for a more meaty texture. After looking at Nanditaโ€™s burgers, I decided to finally give lentil burgers a try.

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It’s Guava!

In Birds and Bees, Fruit on May 25, 2007 at 11:12 am

mystery flower

And the answer is Amrood or Guava! This is the beautiful flower of the common guava tree (Psidium guajava) that most of us know very well! Guava is a small evergreen tropical tree. The tree has a very attractive copper coloured bark that flakes off on mature branches to reveal a grey-green-silver layer underneath, giving the bark a beautiful mottled appearance.

Manisha, Nabeela, Sra and Sandhya, all got it right!

And the winner is, none other than Manisha, The Truly Learned One ๐Ÿ˜‰ . She posted her answer within minutes of the publishing of the post. And for the next few minute, I had no answer! I went into a tizzy – had to do something to keep the quiz alive ๐Ÿ˜† ! Into moderation went her comment and then all – for an appearance of fairplay.

She has asked for a little bit of the most expensive spice in the world, as her prize โ— I made no promises, but it is only fair ๐Ÿ™‚ So, Manisha, you can collect it whenever you are passing! Or, you will get it in the mail, in the not too distant future.

Soon after, Nabeela, followed by Sra, and Sandhya had the right answers too. To all of you – well done!

I am especially impressed because I lived for two years in this house (my parents’ house) with the guava tree, enjoyed the juicy guavas, made them into chutney, into jelly, and then distributed the fruit to everyone who would have it ๐Ÿ™‚ , and didn’t know what the flowers looked like! When it fruits, we get 30-35 small-medium guavas from this tree, everyday, for about 4 weeks! Too much of a good thing…even the house help, and the gardener refuse eventually!

It was last year, when I looked at the tree from above (from the terrace), that I saw these most beautiful large white blooms! They do tend to hide in the leaves, and are not that obvious when looking up the tree. But the fruit we make sure we see!

Guava has many medicinal uses as well. For one, it will keep you regular ๐Ÿ™‚ . The fruit is believed to be beneficial for controlling diabetes. In Cuba, its leaves find culinary use in barbecues. It is also a food plant for certain species of butterflies.

Thank you all for participating. I really enjoyed this, especially since many of you got it right! Till the next quiz!

PS: I would give you the recipe for the chutney which was much loved by a friend’s daughter, but it received a very lukewarm welcome in this house ๐Ÿ˜ฆ And the jelly – it is just too much work- all that straining is just not worth it! Not for guava jelly anyway; though it did look stunning. The fruit is best had fresh, or at the most sprinkled with some chat masala (Indian spiced salt) and a squeeze of lemon.

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose!

In Birds and Bees, Desserts, Edible Flowers, Low Fat, Preserves, Tea Party, Under 30 min! on May 18, 2007 at 10:41 pm


“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” spake the great Bard, though he may not ๐Ÿ™‚ have been alluding to the flower at all. And there are many magnificent rose hybrids today that are a lot of show, but hardly any legendary fragrance.

R is for Rosa. The Indian desi Gulab or musk rose (Rosa moschata), a very fragrant rose variety, is closely related to the Damascus rose (Rosa damascena) that originated in Persia. It produces small flowers (2 to 3 inch across) with red or pink petals. The petals retain their delicate fragrance long after drying, which makes them an ideal ingredient for potpourris. The desi gulab is grown on a large scale for the ayurveda and cosmetic industries.

Rose oil is an essential ingredient in itr, oil-based Indian perfumes. Rose water is used in the preparation of many Indian and middle-eastern dishes. A hint of fresh roses is what makes the rasgulla taste so refreshing. Gulab ark (rose extract) is also a key ingredient in Hamdard’s ever-popular summer drink Rooh Afza. Milk shakes made with Rooh Afza are part of my childhood memories – what a deliciously pretty pink that milk shake is!

Gulab, along with the fragrant mogra (Jasminum sambac), is (was?) the flower of choice, to decorate a newly-wed couple’s room (a bed of roses?). Some of the rose petals strewn on our bed got into the gaps of the mattresses and delicately perfumed the bed for months!

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Flower Fest and Do I have the Flower for You

In Birds and Bees on March 13, 2007 at 6:34 pm


So I’m late. But nobody will mind when I arrive with a flower such as this one!!


We came across the thistle-like Morina longifolia in the Valley of Flowers. I was the lone one in the group to walk this far and take pictures of the spent flower heads and tall spikes that looked very sculptural. I wondered how they must have looked a couple of weeks earlier… Read the rest of this entry »

I is for…Innula

In Birds and Bees on January 13, 2007 at 8:11 pm


I… am going to be there for the Flower Fest…better late…

And I bring to you another wildflower from the Himalayas, the Innula, photographed on the much blogged trip to the Garhwal Himalayas and the Valley of Flowers.

Innulas are members of the daisy family and have both ray and disk-florets that are a beautiful bright yellow in colour. The one featured here, in all likelyhood, is the Innula grandiflora, that grows at 2000-3300m elevation. It flowers from July to September and is very common in North India, especially Kashmir. The plants are about 18-24″ tall, with terminal solitary golden-yellow flowers heads that may be up to 2 1/2″ across, borne on long leafy stems.

If you look carefully, you’ll see that butterflies find them very attractive!



Flower Fest: G is for Geum

In Birds and Bees on December 11, 2006 at 8:03 pm


At last I have something to share on Flower Fest.

G is for Gulab, but I will tell you about this pretty flower, photographed at Auli, this past August (for more on the Valley of Flowers trip check here and here).

Geum is a genus of about 50 species of perennial herbaceous plants from the rose family. They are closely related to Potentilla (which will feature later in ‘P’!). The plant flowers from June to August. The flower colour can range from the more common yellows to red-orange like the one pictured here.

Geum elatum
Common Name : Avens


Tags: Flower Fest, Avens, Valley of Flowers, Wildflower


In Birds and Bees on October 29, 2006 at 9:05 am


I spent a lot of time trying to identify some more of the flowers from out recent Valley of Flowers trip…but it’s not easy. Just when I thought that I would have to let this edition of Flowers Fest go by without participating suddenly the light bulb flashed! In the entry garden at the Auli ropeway I had taken these pictures of happy Dahlias! Bingo!

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